[Updated] What can educators expect from iOS 9?

Update: at Apple’s Special Event today, it was announced that iOS 9 will be released on 16th September 2015. In previous years, updates have been released at 13:00 (Eastern Time), which is 18:00 (GMT), however this is not guaranteed.

With the announcement today of an Apple Special Event scheduled to take place on September 9th 2015, rumours have been making the rounds on the Internet for months as to what new products we can expect to see unveiled. One thing we can be pretty certain about is the release of iOS 9. It was first unveiled and demoed at WWDC 2015, with a full release touted for fall of this year.

I’ve been playing with with the iOS 9 beta on a secondary iPad Air for a couple of weeks now to get to grips with it ahead of this. It’s not radically different in the way iOS 7 was, however what it does is make the operating system feel even more polished and refined. In the main, there are lots of features which have each been made a bit better. However this adds up to make a noticeable difference! Rather than focus on all of them (there are just too many), I’ll focus on some of the key new features and improvements and in particular what they may bring to iPad classrooms.

NEW: Multitasking
This is possibly one of the most eagerly anticipated and requested features to come to iOS. With the screen space available on the iPad, it makes sense to offer the ability to do two things at once. This features could be especially effective in education. For example, students could research a topic and take notes, without having to switch between apps. The user will be able to multitask in the following ways:

– Slide Over – This allows you to open a second app without having to switch completely (see image below). For example, students could be creating a document in Pages and may need to find an image. They can now swipe from the right hand side of the screen and open Safari in another window. However, whilst the second app is open, you cannot use the main app until you have removed the second app from the screen.


– Split View – This takes multitasking to a whole new level, however it is only available to those with an iPad Air 2. Split Screen allows you to have two apps open and active at the same time. So now, rather than having to remove the second app before you can use the main one, you can use both side by side. This view also allows you to resize the windows with the slide of a finger.

Improved performance
These refinements are perhaps one of the least noticeable but most important improvements to have been made in iOS 9. Apple has stated that they have been able to improve battery life by 1 hour. They have managed to achieve this by making apps and system processes more efficient and the inclusion of a new low power mode. This could be significant, especially in education where students may use their devices for hours upon end throughout the day. However, since I have iOS 9 installed on a device I use sparingly, I haven’t been able to test this fully.

Another significant improvement is the way Apple pushes out software updates. Previously update files could have been as large as 4.5GB, as was the case when iOS 8 was released. Since these were so large, it often meant users did not have enough free space available. As a result, they would have to delete apps, photos, videos, music etc. from their device and add again them again once the update had been installed: not great. Apple have addressed this by trimming down update files considerably with iOS 9 being only 1.3GB in size. This could be crucial for education, especially where devices often have limited storage. The last thing anyone wants is a student having to remove apps they may need from their device, or worse still their work, simply to install an update. In addition, when updates are released a notification appears which gives the user the option to let their device update when it’s not in use, for example when they are sleeping. These subtle changes will make updating devices more convenient, making whole school device management far easier.

Improved native Notes app
The Notes app has always been very basic, allowing you to record text notes and add images from your Photos, but offered little else in terms of functionality. There are better options available on the App Store, Notability being one that really stands out. However, iOS 9 bring an array of enhancements. Perhaps the most significant improvements include the ability to add a sketch to a note using the tip of your finger or a stylus (see image below), or to add a photo from the camera.


Added keyboard functionality
The keyboard in iOS now features handy shortcuts which make typing a little bit easier. For example, when typing, dedicated buttons for undo/redo; cut, copy and paste; and bold, italic and underline; appear along the toolbar (see screenshots below). Selecting text is now easier too with the inclusion of a handy trackpad which is activated when you tap the keyboard with two fingers. This means you can select a specific point within a document much faster and with greater accuracy. Finally, Apple has addressed something which was apparently a source of frustration for many (although I’ve never really noticed), working out whether caps lock is on or off. Whereas previously the keys on the keyboard appeared as capitals, regardless of whether or not caps lock was activated, the new keyboard will now adapt displaying capitals when caps lock is activated and lower case letters when it is not (see below).


NEW: News
Although I haven’t had chance to use the new News app yet (not yet available in beta versions in the UK), it is a feature I’m looking forward to. Being a Geographer, studying events in the news is something I do frequently. It seems that News collects stories from a range of sources and delivers them straight to your device. In addition, the app is intelligent in the sense that it learns about your interest based on what you read, offering a very personalised experience. Aesthetically, it looks stunning with a beautiful layout and design with interactive features like galleries and videos built in.

As mentioned before, whilst the changes aren’t profound, they do make the user experience significantly better. In fact, some users will be unaware of whether they are running iOS 9 or 8. This will be great for those who are a little less confident in using their devices. Finally, iOS 9 will be compatible with the following devices (and any others subsequently released):

IMG_1651(Image Credit: Apple)


3 thoughts on “[Updated] What can educators expect from iOS 9?

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